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Demerol Symptoms and Warning Signs

Demerol abuse can lead to stomach pain, difficulty breathing and, in large doses, coma. Signs that someone is abusing the drug include pinpoint pupils, mental confusion and drowsiness.

Signs of Demerol (Meperidine) Use

Constricted pupils from drug abuseDemerol is a highly addictive opioid and one of many prescription painkillers that are prevalent in the United States. It may be hard to tell if someone is abusing Demerol, especially if they have a prescription for it.

Using Demerol in any way not prescribed by a doctor is abuse, which can eventually turn into addiction. There are several things to look for that may indicate when someone is using Demerol inappropriately.

Unusually constricted pupils are one of the most common signs of Demerol abuse.

Some external signs of Demerol abuse include:

  • Constant fatigue
  • “Nodding off”
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Profuse sweating
  • Disorientation
  • Slowed breathing
  • Constant itching
  • Unusual sleeping patterns

Dangers of Demerol Abuse

Millions of Americans abuse prescription opioids like Demerol and this epidemic has been growing at an alarming rate over the last decade. Many feel that Demerol isn’t that dangerous because it doesn’t have the same stigma attached to it as street drugs.

Although most people think of illicit drugs as being more dangerous, prescription drugs like Demerol kill more Americans than street drugs do.

Many who abuse Demerol develop a tolerance to the drug. This requires them to take larger doses of the substance to get the same euphoric effect. Taking larger doses of Demerol increases the likelihood of adverse health problems, as the drug takes a toll on the user’s internal organs.

Demerol abuse can lead to an array of health problems, such as:

Seizures

Heart attack

Liver problems

Difficult breathing

Stroke

Coma

Headache

Confusion

Constipation

Those who become addicted to Demerol often resort to snorting and/or injecting the drug to produce a more intense high. Many of these addicted people make the switch over to heroin because it is cheaper and produces the same kind of high.

“[Dr. Palmer] hit bottom in 1979, adding Demerol injections to his menu. By then, he said, his marriage had collapsed, his finances were a shambles and he had lost a hospital job for writing false prescriptions. One night in a motel room he came frighteningly close to suicide.”

1996 New York Times profile on a doctor injecting Demerol

Since 1999, the amount of painkillers prescribed in the U.S. has nearly quadrupled. This marks a massive trend of overprescribing. Patients are visiting multiple doctors to receive abundant amounts of the drugs to feed their habits. Health professionals are also among those likely to become addicted to Demerol because they have more access to these drugs.

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Recognizing Demerol addiction

There is a fine line between addiction and abuse. Abuse starts when the person starts taking Demerol in ways not prescribed by a doctor. Some people start taking the drug under the supervision of a doctor, but later start to take more of the drug than prescribed. Most people get Demerol from friends or family members who have a prescription.

Outside of the physical signs of abuse associated with Demerol addiction, there are many other behavioral signs that heavily indicate there is a problem.

Some of the tell-tale signs of Demerol addiction are:

  • Isolation from friends and family to hide drug use
  • “Doctor shopping”
  • Stealing money from friends and family to feed their habit
  • Forging prescriptions
  • Becoming highly defensive when their drug use is brought up
  • Neglecting their obligations at work and at home

Addiction marks the point when the person is taking the drug on a daily basis and becomes psychologically and physically dependent on the drug. At this point, the addicted person feels they are physically and emotionally incapable of functioning without the drug.

Intervention and Next Steps

In some cases, staging an intervention may be a good way to help a Demerol user into treatment. This means confronting the addict about his or her behavior. The family must express their feelings about the person’s Demerol use in a non-adversarial way and explain how that drug use affects others.

It’s important to give Demerol users the unfiltered truth, but it’s also important to tell them that the family is there to help.

Part of every intervention is outlining consequences for not going into rehab. The consequences should be severe enough to give the addicted person a strong incentive to get help. The consequences are up to the family to decide, but may be along the lines of asking the addict to move out or removing contact with his or her children.

At the end of an intervention, the family should take the addicted person immediately into treatment. If the addicted person refuses treatment, that is his or her choice, but the family must stick to the consequences they laid out.

Demerol Withdrawal and Treatment

Demerol is a strong, physically addictive drug, which means those who stop taking it after a prolonged period of time can experience intense physical withdrawal. When someone stops taking Demerol abruptly, they may experience signs of fever, vomiting, nausea and seem physically ill. This stage of withdrawal is painful but can be managed in a controlled treatment setting.

Rehabs with a medically supervised detox can monitor those addicted to Demerol for complications when quitting and can also ease their withdrawal symptoms with medication.

If you have a loved one that is struggling with Demerol addiction and in need of treatment, don’t hesitate to call us. Our addiction specialists can help you find a treatment center that fits your loved one’s needs.

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Sources & Author Last Edited: January 22, 2016

  1. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2014). How is heroin linked to prescription drug abuse?. Retrieved on November 3, 2015 from: https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/research-reports/heroin/how-heroin-linked-to-prescription-drug-abuse
  2. Allen, Greg. NPR. (2011). The 'Oxy Express': Florida's Drug Abuse Epidemic. Retrieved on November 3, 2015 from: http://www.npr.org/2011/03/02/134143813/the-oxy-express-floridas-drug-abuse-epidemic
  3. Haberman, Clyde. New York Times. (1996). AT HOME WITH DR. MICHAEL PALMER;From Despair To Best Sellers. Retrieved on November 3, 2015 from: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/07/11/garden/at-home-with-dr-michael-palmer-from-despair-to-best-sellers.html?pagewanted=all
  4. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2011). Meperidine. Retrieved on November 3, 2015 from: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/meds/a682117.html
  5. Centers for Disease Control. Prescription Drug Overdose. Retrieved on November 3, 2015 from: http://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/
  6. Psychology Today. (2014). Prescription Drugs Are More Deadly Than Street Drugs. Retrieved on November 3, 2015 from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/wicked-deeds/201404/prescription-drugs-are-more-deadly-street-drugs
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